The Territories Fight Back

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Emilio Aguinaldo formed a coaltion of advisors and strategists, pictured here, to fight for an independent Philippines. Before his capture in 1902, Aguinaldo eluded the US by meeting with his supporters in Hong Kong, Singapore, and the northern Philippines. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

The people of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines did not simply assimilate into America's new empire. Despite growing restraints on their rights, opportunities, and privileges, individuals found ways to resist the US before and after annexation.

Relentless Filipino insurgents challenged American troops through the Philippine-American War. While they ultimately lost the fight, and by association their land, Filipino patriots effectively convinced the US to rule more leniently over the Philippines. Native Hawaiians creatively protested the imposition of American political and cultural order. By the 1830s, US missionaries successfully lobbied the monarchy to ban the practice of hula. In the conservative eyes of the church, the indigenous dance was a symbol of heathen religion and sensual pleasure. Native Hawaiians, however, persisted. They not only performed the hula, but also taught the steps to younger children. With the native flag removed from the Iolani Palace, women sewed it into quilts. Language also became a powerful means of resistance. Villages memorized and performed Hawaiian epics like the Ka mo’olelo of Hi’iakaikapoliopele. Newspapers, once a popular tool for American industrialists and missionaries, now gave voice to those speaking against the US. Ka Hoku o Ka Pakipika was printed exclusively in native Hawaiian, and their stories covered issues such as the decline of native populations and water disputes with plantations.